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Lakehead sets high standard 0

COURTNEY WHALEN, THE PACKET AND TIMES

Forget gold. Orillia's Lakehead University is going for the platinum.

The design of the first building and the name of the architecture firm behind it was unveiled Wednesday. The university campus will be the first in Canada to attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum standards.

"We anticipate as the campus builds out, it should be a model -- a North American model," Lakehead president Fred Gilbert said of its design and environmental standards.

Architectural firm Moriyama and Teshima will take the lead on the project after being selected from seven candidates. The Torontobased firm has worked on projects including the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa City Hall, Ontario Science Centre and Casino Rama, as well as several universities.

"Moriyama and Teshima are one of Canada's leading architectural firms and they have a specialty when it comes to university design," said Orillia campus dean Kim Fedderson, calling them the "right team."

"I've seen the buildings they've done and they're exactly the kind of buildings we're looking for."

Gilbert said one of the deciding factors in choosing Moriyama and Teshima was their experience with LEED standard building.

Planned for an 85 acre site west of Highway 11 on the former Horne farm property, Phase I of the university is slated to open in 2010 with a price tag of $40 million to $50 million.

The completed Phase I will include an academic building to accommodate up to 1,500 students (approximately 300 students will still have classes in the downtown core) and a residence that Gilbert said will be tendered separately.

Mayor Ron Stevens immediately recognized the name of the architects from their previous work at Casino Rama and agreed that having the firm in place brings a sense of reality to the project.

"The architect was a critical part of this whole process because of the LEED standards," he said.

Now that the property has been rezoned, Stevens said the city is working on the necessary infrastructure to service it. Part of the city's $10 million contribution to the university includes servicing the site, along with annual contributions of $500,000 for 10 years beginning in 2010.

While constructing the campus to LEED platinum standards comes with efficiency, environmental and sustainability benefits, Gilbert admits it also brings some challenges.

"Up-front costs," said Gilbert, noting achieving platinum standards is more expensive. "But it pays itself back in a relatively short period of time."

Site-specific challenges will also need to be addressed as construction proceeds, he said, pointing to items such as appropriate mechanisms to deal with heating and cooling. The final result, however, will be worth it, he said, and could have further-reaching benefits.

"I would hope it would set expectations in future development in Orillia."

In order to achieve LEED status, the project must earn points for energy efficiency, use of natural elements, conservation of materials, waste minimization and overall sustainability.

Coun. Joe Fecht sits on the city's environmental advisory committee and said if platinum status is achieved by Lakehead, the facility will set the bar for other universities looking at building or expanding in the future.

"I think it will be very attractive not only to students... but it's going to bring people from across the country and from other countries to see how it's been designed and constructed," he said.

Thoughts that Orillia could be host to the first LEED platinum university campus in Canada is something Stevens has no problem getting behind.

"It really is overwhelming," he said. "If we had work toward putting this on the HRC site, this wouldn't have been possible."

Aside from the LEED standards, both Gilbert and Fedderson said the design for the university remains focused on being student-oriented as well as drawing from and enhancing the natural elements of the site. Gilbert sees both in the drawings

of the Phase I building. "Until you get the first architectural rendering of the building, it's all just conjecture," he said. "(Every member of) the steering committee was impressed and embraced the design and I hope the community will do the same."

Gilbert said a fundraising committee is already getting organized to start raising money for the project and the university is hoping for some government support. While more expensive to build, Gilbert noted the construction of a LEED platinum standard campus also has the potential to draw interest from outside funding sources.

With the appointment of the architects and unveiling of Phase I drawings, the project is running precisely on schedule, said Fedderson.

"We're quite confident come the summer of 2010 we'll be ready to bring tables and chairs into that building," he said.


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